Select Reed/Reid/Read Miscellany

Here are some Reed/Reid/Read stories and accounts over the years:


Reed, Reid, and Read

The incidence of these names has varied in the UK, America and elsewhere (the table below shows the approximate numbers today).

Numbers (000’s) UK America Elsewhere (1)
Reid   68   34   78
Reed   40   84   14
Read (2)   34    7   15

(1)  Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
(2)  Including Reade.

The Reid spelling is mainly Scottish.  Reid numbers are also high in Northern Ireland and in Canada, reflecting probable Scottish immigration there.

The Border Reeds

Mark Lower in his 1860 Dictionary of the Family Names of the United Kingdom had the following to say about the Border Reeds:

“The Reeds of Cragg in Northumberland probably took their name from Redesdale, in which they have been immemorially located, or rather from the river which gives name to that dale.

On a mural monument in Elsdon church, erected in the year 1758 to the memory of Elrington Reed, the family is stated to have been resident in Redesdale for more than nine hundred years. This Sir Walter Scott calls an “incredible space” of time, and so it is – though the high antiquity of the family is unquestionable.”


The Reades of Barton Court

The Reades in Berkshire date from the 15th century and they were prominent citizens of Abingdon in the following century.  Thomas Reade inherited Barton Court at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries and he rebuilt the manor house with stone from the tower of the demolished abbey, a Norman building whose ruins had spread over five acres.

The Reades were strong Royalists and Thomas Reade’s grandson, Sir Thomas, entertained Charles I and Henrietta Maria at Barton on several occasions. In 1644 the King and his pregnant Queen had a tearful parting at Barton before she took the road to Exeter and thence to France.  They were never to meet ever again.

During the Civil War, when Abingdon was occupied by Parliamentary troops, Barton still held for the King.  The house was finally burned down, despite the valiant efforts of Sir Thomas’s twenty-year-old grandson Compton Reade, probably in the course of an ambush in 1646.  Sir Thomas Reade died four years later and his wife moved to Brocket Hall.  Compton Reade was made a baronet after the Restoration.

The Thomas Reade name survives in Abingdon with the Thomas Reade Primary School.

Colonel John Read of Maryland and Delaware

Colonel John Read, born in Dublin in 1687, was related tothe Berkshire Reades at Barton Court.  As a young man he had fallen in love and was engaged to marry his cousin.  Unfortunately she died.  In his grief he departed Ireland and set off for America.  He settled in Cecil county, Maryland where he was a planter and slave owner.  He served in the Colonial legislature and was one of the founders of the city of Charleston at the head of Chesapeake Bay.

In later life he moved to New Castle county, Delaware where his son George, later a signer of the Declaration of Independence and US Senator for Delaware, grew up.


The World of Sarah Tabitha Reid

Sarah Tabitha Reid, who was born in 1818 and died in 1888, lived in Monmouth county, New Jersey and was a wife, mother, farmer and homemaker there.   She is remembered because of a journal she kept from May 1869 to December 1872 which was left with a Midwest family who had befriended one of Sarah’s descendants.

Sarah and her husband William had four daughters and a son.  At the time of the journal the two youngest girls were still living on a farm near Freehold, rather than at the family farm.

Much of the work of running their farm fell to Sarah because her husband commuted to New York City by train to work as a bricklayer to supplement the family income.  William often returned home only one or two weekends a month for most of the year.  It appears he harvested the wheat, but Sarah took care of the potatoes and other vegetables and raised livestock in addition to running the household.  Like many Monmouth county housewives of that era, she also churned butter to sell to neighbors and local stores. Although Sarah could hire help for harvesting and running the house, her journal entries often say only that she was too tired to write that night.

Except for Sundays, her week was filled with work. ”I do not think I ever had such a hard time to get a big day’s work done,” she wrote at the end of a Saturday in June 1869.  ”I baked bread and custard pies and two kinds of cake and dinner to get and churning and the kitchen to clean and strawberry jelly to make besides a great many things too numerous to mention.”


Sir James Reid the Queen’s Physician

The great turning-point of James Reid’s life occurred in 1881.  Queen Victoria required a resident medical attendant.  It was essential that he should be a Scotsman and preferably a native of her beloved Aberdeenshire.   On 8 June 8 he had an interview with the Queen at Balmoral and few days later, at the age of 31, this Scot of humble origin was catapulted into the position of the Queen’s physician.   James Reid had been born in the village of Ellon in Aberdeenshire, the elder son of the village doctor.

His position was unique in the Queen’s medical household as he was the first physician to remain constantly at the Queen’s beck and call and to travel with her wherever she went at home or abroad. For 20 years until her death he was a permanent member of the household.  His life with Queen Victoria was recorded minutely in his numerous diaries and scrapbooks.

He attended Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 and he also attended her son Edward VII’s death in 1910.  He remained a medical advisor to the Royal Family until his death in 1923.  His Scottishness never left him and to the end of his days he spoke with a distinct accent.


George Frederick Read

Family legend has it that GF Read was the son of George IV, when Prince of Wales, and Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert.  However, no proof has ever been found and it does appear unlikely.   Before meeting Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Prince did have several mistresses.  It is credible that Sarah Read could have had a dalliance with him and then been left holding the baby.  George Frederick Read was born in Soho, London in 1788 of parents unknown.

He went to sea at the age of eleven and was probably engaged in the East India Company’s maritime service until 1808.  After that time he began to have his own ships and trade himself.  He is thought to have brought the first merchant vessel through Torres Strait and to have been active in the trade between India, China, and Australia.

In 1818 he settled in Tasmania and owned a three-storied stone tea warehouse on Salamanca Place in Hobart and other town properties.   He was the founder and Governor of the Bank of Tasmania (or, as it was then called, Van Diemen’s Land).   He died in 1852 in his two-storey stone house in New Town which still stands.